Rainwater harvesting needs political buy-in to relieve water poverty

Water is unlike other scarce natural resources: it underpins all aspects of society, from ecology to agriculture to industry – and it has no known substitutes. Like oxygen, water is fundamental to life. Water is also an integral part of the production systems that generate wealth and guarantees well-being.  Water provision is the most basic intervention and requirement to address poverty. There are still too many people in South Africa that are “water poor”, who are persistently threatened by severe droughts or floods, who depend on water to cultivate food, and who spend hours each day collecting and carrying water. This is over and above the fact that they also have no sustainable livelihood. Therefore it is mind boggling to realise that a simple green plastic water storage tank, strategically placed to harvest rainwater, can help to meaningfully change millions of lives in a relatively short period of time.

Rooftop rainwater harvesting (RWH) can play a major role in sustainable water provision for all and improve the livelihoods of millions of people who do not have easy access to water for drinking, cooking or any other purpose. It involves the small-scale collection, capture and storage of rainwater runoff for different productive purposes, including irrigation, drinking and domestic use and is one of the alternative water resources that may enable South Africa to meet the goals set by the government, and to ensure people’s well-being. Despite of a lack of political buy-in, the concept of rainwater harvesting is not new in South Africa. It is a major source of drinking water in the rainy season in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, and is one of the broad strategies through which water can be conserved for domestic use.  This practice is currently spreading in rural areas throughout the country, especially with the financial assistance provided by government to resource poor households for the capital cost of rainwater storage tanks and related works. One of its advantages is the direct management thereof by households who are solely responsible for maintenance and management. Owners are more likely to conserve water and maintain the system carefully to ensure that they retain an effective long-term water supply.  The system does not require any communal or commercial management, because the user is the owner of the system. Rooftop RWH also saves energy, time, cost and effort, because water is generally provided at or near the point of use. . During 2008, several in-depth interviews were held in Gauteng with key persons of townships and informal settlements, addressing the current water situation and the acceptability of rooftop RWH. There was an overall positive attitude towards rooftop RWH. The willingness to participate is key to the success of the project. A good community structure with an efficient and devoted leader, with committees assigned for rainwater harvesting, encouraged inventive ideas, involvement and enthusiasm for rooftop RWH. In South Africa, the areas with the greatest need for an immediate intervention are Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, each with more than 2 million people without any access to water infrastructure and well below the RDP service levels. It is therefore no surprise that cholera is most prevalent in these two provinces. According to Census 2001 data, these two provinces also represent the areas with the highest number of households with no access to formal water infrastructure. The mountainous terrain of KwaZulu-Natal also makes it very costly to invest in infrastructure. Rooftop RWH would therefore be an ideal intervention strategy as it is a stand-alone, point-of-use facility. Water security is based on the creation of mechanisms such as RWH that ensure that the poor have secure and sustainable access to water resources. This fulfills the rights and entitlements of people, especially the poor.

Source: Stellenbosch University Research Office

Rainwater harvesting can alleviate water shortages in rural areas where water scarcity is a reality.  Installations of rainwater tanks and a simple gutter collection system system at each household is a common sight in the Eastern Cape (the next time you drive through, you’ll notice them).  One must keep in mind that water collected from gutters may be unsafe to drink and it should be boiled or filtered.  Water Rhapsody water conservation systems can provide your rainwater harvesting solution.  Water Rhapsody systems have an advantage in that the tanks need not be installed directly under the roof against the wall (unsightly!).  Our water tanks can be positioned out of sight, above or below the collection point. Water Rhapsody in Mpumalanga and Limpopo can help you with all your water saving requirements.  Our greywater systems ensure that grey water is re-used safely, saving money on your water bill too!  We are authorized JoJo Tank dealers and can supply and install the full range of JoJo water tanks and water tank stands.  We have also combined with Yes Solar to enable us to provide South Africa with an alternative energy source to Eskom: solar energy.  Our solar water heating systems are made by Solsquare and qualify for the Eskom renewable energy rebate scheme for domestic solar geysers (Solsquare solar geysers are only installed by qualified solar installers).  Contact us for a free quote on  our water systems, water tanks and solar energy systems.

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